The next interview in our stagey chat series, is with the incredible Ross Dawes. Ross is currently in the West End production of Bonnie & Clyde, which is set to open this weekend! His most recent theatre credits include: Rock of Ages, Phantom of the Opera, The Rink, Girl from the North Country and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

Get yourself comfy and join Ross and I for a chat about all things stagey!

Hi Ross, thanks so much for chatting to Stage to Page today! How are you? And would you mind introducing yourself and telling us how you first got into acting?
Hi Zoe, yes I’m well thanks, although things have been very busy recently – learning the roles and I’m also resident director on Bonnie and Clyde. However it’s all going brilliantly! I’m Ross Dawes and I’ve been acting for about thirty-five years now. I started when I was really young; I did the usual thing of going to local dance schools and was then fortunate enough to get a place at stage school which meant I did a lot of television and theatre acting when I was young. I went to Arts Ed when I was twelve, where there was a strong emphasis on ballet training, as we worked with English National Ballet, and then went on to do the Musical Theatre course at Arts Ed.    

Did you always know that you wanted to be on stage growing up?
It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. I have a real love for it and because I’ve always just been in and around theatre I’d say the answer is yes. I’ve always been working towards performing professionally, however it’s never really felt like work and I’ve been very fortunate to have been doing it for so long.   

Over the past few years, covid has had a devastating blow on the industry. How does it feel to finally be back in theatres after such a long time away?
Covid was really devastating for our industry; actors were the first people to be out of a job when the pandemic hit and then the last people to return to work; it was definitely a difficult two years. I think theatres closing was difficult for everyone, not just actors, because theatre is culturally enrichening for actors and audiences alike, so it was wonderful when the theatres opened again. I went on the Rock of Ages tour prior to this which was a lot of fun. We had lots of very lively audiences and it was just amazing to get that kind of response and to be performing in a live setting once again. I’m now very excited to be back in town with Bonnie and Clyde.  

You've just started rehearsals for Bonnie and Clyde. How are rehearsals going? Can you give us any insight into the production? I can't wait to see the show.
Rehearsals are going brilliantly so far thank you. The cast and creative team are really superb, the book is wonderful, and the score is fantastic. It’s a brilliant piece based on a great true story, one which has been told many times before. So, for that very reason, we have tried not to romanticise the characters or the period, but rather, depict them as they were. After all, the show is set during a time when 25% of the population in America was unemployed; people were living in tents and life was tough. So the public actually seemed to be on Bonnie and Clyde’s side at times, I suppose because they could identify with their struggles. Bonnie and Clyde lived day to day travelling about, stealing cars, participating in shoot-outs and sustaining injuries, so whilst theirs was a love story, it was really a tragic love story and it’s important that we convey that accurately within the context of the time in which they were living. I think audiences of all ages are in for a real treat. We’re at the end of week three now, so have just started doing run throughs, and I think it’s coming together really nicely so far. 

Bonnie & Clyde: in rehearsals

How are you preparing for the role of Captain Frank Hamer? No spoilers, but he is quite a pivotal person within the show...
As with any show, I’ve done a fair bit of research into the real-life Captain Frank Hamer and the world in which the show inhabits. Captain Frank Hamer was a rather outstanding individual who was about fifty when Bonnie and Clyde were eventually caught. Interestingly, there are parallels to be drawn between him and Clyde and he could have easily gone down a similar path, as he was almost involved in a robbery which ended up being thwarted. He’s a really interesting character who I believe made a decision to live on right side of things and catch the bad guys, rather than struggle along on the wrong side. He was a Texas ranger with great expertise in tracking animals and horse riding. He wasn’t one to start a fight, but could easily defend himself in the event of a fight breaking out. He also had a strong sense of morality and was set on doing the right thing; I can really connect to that aspect of the character. Of note, he opposed the Klu Klux Klax and stopped lots of lynchings.  

Regardless of gender and age, which stage role would you choose to play and why?
Oh this is a difficult question. I did actually get the chance to play one of my dream roles when I went on for Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory many times during the three years that I was involved in the show. Other than that, I would just say you can always find the truth in any role and it can always be fun. I suppose you get out what you put in. 

If you could give one piece of advice to any aspiring theatre actors out there, what would it be?
Honestly, I would just say work hard and be nice, because the people who work the hardest and are the nicest work the most in our industry. It’s great to have ambition, but it’s also important to be a good energy in the room. 

What are you most excited about for starting the run of Bonnie and Clyde at the Arts Theatre?
To be honest, I’m just really excited to tell this story; I think it’s a brilliant piece and you can tell that every creative involved in the project is totally invested in it, and that makes a real difference. The Arts Theatre is also a smaller, more intimate space which I think really lends itself well to this piece, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction. 

Do you have a go-to musical theatre audition song?
I don’t really if I’m honest, however I do love some Gershwin and some Sondheim. I used to sing Somebody Loves You from the Gershwin songbook quite a lot. But generally I just try and find a song that’s appropriate for the show in question. 

My blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?
I have actually just finished reading a brilliant book called The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett which I think would lend itself very well to the stage, as either a play or a musical. I won’t give away the plot, but I would really recommend it to anyone looking for a good book.  

Thank you so much for chatting to us Ross. You can catch Ross in Bonnie & Clyde at the Arts Theatre, here.

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